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ARCANE

Heavy Prog • Australia


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Arcane biography
ARCANE is a band from Brisbane that is frequently dubbed progressive metal, but their actual sound is not quite that simple.

Formed sometime in the early 2000's, ARCANE was made up of Jim GREY (vocals), Matthew MARTIN (keyboards), Michael GAGEN (guitar), Mick MILLARD (bass), and Stephen WALSH (drums). This lineup played local gigs for a couple of years, the role of bass player going momentarily to Shirley JACKSON before settling on Brendon BLANCHARD in 2006, who has stayed with the group to this day.

In 2007, the band released the album 'Ashes'. Originally intended as an EP featuring only the epic 20-minute title track, enough material was added to create a full length record. A warm reception caused the band to stop touring in 2008 in order to create a new album, to be called 'Chronicles of the Waking Dream'.

2009 saw the group on tour again (with new drummer Blake COULSON, who had joined the band for the recording of the new album), acting as an opening act for senior prog metallers Queensr˙che during their Australian tour to support 'American Soldier', as well as the release of rock opera Chronicles of the Waking Dream.

Musically, ARCANE often do play an aggressive style of progressive metal, but occasionally temper it with sweeping orchestral arrangements and poetic narration, resulting in a style that shows a fine pedigree including ANGRA to PORCUPINE TREE and OPETH. They will provide an intriguing listen for fans of prog metal, particularly those fond of the more alternative rock side of the genre. Additionally, the band is very fond of blurring the lines between the music and the show. No stranger to electronic media, they created a secondary Myspace page dedicated to the Chronicles of the Waking Dream album, which revealed the storyline rather than music, and did not release any singles until playing the entire album live after its release.

Though ARCANE has evolved since their early days, they have stayed with the indie label OzProg Music and continue to play mostly local gigs, staying true to their Brisbane roots.

- The Whistler -

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Known / LearnedKnown / Learned
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GroundworkGroundwork
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ARCANE discography


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ARCANE top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.20 | 13 ratings
Ashes
2007
4.24 | 97 ratings
Chronicles of the Waking Dream
2009
4.24 | 18 ratings
Known/Learned
2015

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ARCANE Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Known/Learned by ARCANE album cover Studio Album, 2015
4.24 | 18 ratings

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Known/Learned
Arcane Heavy Prog

Review by Second Life Syndrome
Collaborator Post/Math Rock Team

4 stars 4.5 stars

Australian prog will soon rule the world. I'm convinced of this. There are so many wonderful progressive bands coming out of Australia right now, but, for my money, Arcane is the greatest of all. Arcane crowdfunded this new album "Known/Learned", and, what an album it is!! As you may have suspected, "Known/Learned" is a double album of epic proportions, complete with a darkness/light theme, a heavy disc (Known) and a softer one (Learned), and emotional lyrics. Indeed, the insights explored lyrically in this album are quite heavy and deep. So, this being their third album, how does Arcane fare? Can they really pull off an album in excess of 130 minutes?

The answer is a definitive "yes". I'm incredibly impressed with the grace, maturity, and compositional tightness with which this massive album was created. The band is: Jim Grey on vocals, Michael Gagen on guitars, Matt Martin on keyboards, and Blake Coulson on drums. Due to losing their bassist, the band recruited the bassists from Dead Letter Opener and Ne Obliviscaris to record the bass lines. Anyways, these musicians are clearly talented on a high level. Michael's guitars are stuttering brilliance, and the rhythm sections on both albums are massive successes, especially Blake's mad drumming. Jim's vocals, however, are on a level of their own. This guy has the range, the tone, and the lungs to out-sing just about anyone. From quiet, beauteous moments to blaring monuments, Jim Grey makes this double album work. Need convincing? Listen to "Womb".

Arcane has a rather distinctive sound that carries on in this double album. On "Known", soaring melodies crash straight into hefty riffs and incredible polyrhythmic instrumentals with results that aren't quite metal, but could certainly be called that. "Known" is a joy from start to finish, with an opening track that grabs your attention, "Promise [Part 2]". In fact, when my wife and I heard it for the first time, we looked at each other in jawdropping amazement. "Known" starts out, then, with definitive, perfect Arcane---exactly what we were hoping. The album continues on with solid tracks, including the amniotic silence of "Womb" and the greatness of the 20+ minute epic "Learned". In fact, the latter has one of the best closing five minutes that I've heard in some time. Catchy, impressive on a technical level, and always sublime, "Known" is near to a masterpiece. If I have any complaints, it is that the album may drag a bit in some of the longer tracks, but that is nitpicking at best.

"Learned" is a much different album. Dropping the technical feats of the previous album, "Learned" explores a more human, delicate side to the band. In fact, it's much more relatable and personal, as the band isn't hiding behind a wall of sound, so to speak. The album begins strongly with "Hunter, Heart & Home", featuring a consistent and addictive melody. Other strong tracks include "Nightingale's Weave", which loops and spins around your mind precariously; and "Impatience and Slow Poison", which has that slow building effect that can be so incredible. "Learned" is a strong album by itself, and it honestly doesn't need "Known" at all.

Had Arcane given me either "Known" OR "Learned" for my hard-earned cash, I would have been immensely satisfied. As it is, the band has given me two incredible albums that will certainly top their previous albums in my mind. It isn't often that one can find a band with such finesse and maturity in playing combined with top-notch vocals and deep lyrics. Arcane really is the full package, and I hope that the inspiration keeps flowing freely.

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 Known/Learned by ARCANE album cover Studio Album, 2015
4.24 | 18 ratings

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Known/Learned
Arcane Heavy Prog

Review by Gallifrey

5 stars Double albums are honestly one of the biggest double-edged swords in the music world.

When this album was announced, during Arcane's crowd-funding campaign, I was a bit skeptical of its quality. For starters, both the previous Arcane records could have been cut shorter, and as a general rule in prog, the more restrained it is, the less it tends to piss about shredding and key mashing. So Arcane announcing a double album, light/dark, yin/yang themed, with one being long and heavy and epic and the other being soft and sweet, both containing themes from each other and crossing over lyrically. On the one hand, that's nearly two hours of music, and for sure will end up dry as hell and certain to dissolve into at least a dozen dick waving sessions. But on the other, that concept is absolutely awesome.

But I think the success of Known/Learned is almost entirely down to the fact that this is not a double album. This is two completely separate albums, and should be treated as such. Sure, they have overlapping themes and titles and the digipak has this cool ying/yang thing going in the art (bonus shoutout to whoever the printing company is - this is one of the best looking (and feeling) CDs I own), but in essence these albums are their own entities with their own themes and styles and they should be treated as two separate sides of a whole, Deliverance/Damnation style. And I have done this in my listening, never playing both disks too close to each other. And because of that I've split this review up into discussions on both records individually, with a conclusion talking about the double album as a whole.

Side A: Known

For the first three listens of this album I only played Known, and didn't touch Learned. I thought it would be cool to form an opinion on one, then go into the other with some familiarity and expectation. And after those three listens I remember saying 'if this was the only album Arcane released right now, I would already have enough great things to say about it'. Essentially, this album is the follow-up to Chronicles of the Waking Dream, and Learned is just an album-long extra.

Despite the fact that I was one of the crowd-funders for this album and paid for it months before hearing it, I was never really sold on it being great, I really just wanted to support the band. Ashes was a solid album plagued by some poor production and a bit of over-wanking, and even though Chronicles of the Waking Dream did fix those parts for the most part, I would never call myself a big fan of this band, the only thing that really impressed me about that record being Jim Grey's voice. While musically it had good moments, it really failed to grip me beyond 'decent'. Although I could hear them becoming a fantastic band on that record, I absolutely did not expect them to do it, do it brilliantly, and do it with two albums at once.

This album is pretty much everything Chronicles of the Waking Dream was trying to be. The melodies and riffs are stronger, the production is fantastic, the songs don't drag on (mostly), and every single performance is greatly improved. On this album Arcane play a style somewhere in the midst of progressive rock and metal, but keep a distinctly emotional take on it, in the same way a group like Riverside do, but without the melodrama (and that bloody organ). It goes from huge riffs and anthemic choruses to the near-silent beauty of 'Womb', but never loses track of its overall aim, and never spends too long doing one thing.

In terms of negative sides, there's not much that's wrong with Known per se, it just could be a bit better if it absolutely needed to. As with any progressive metal album, there is an affinity to playing a bit more than you need to in solos, and while this does keep itself mostly within reasonable bounds with relatively sensible keyboard patches (there's one in 'Instinct' that sucks though) and solo counts, particularly during the 23-minute closing track it does push a bit past my wankery limit. I really only have one actual problem with this album though, the rest are just nitpick, and that problem is the way that the best song on this album shoots itself in the foot halfway through to become' not the best song on this album.

The first half of 'Selfsame', especially coming out of the solemn and beautifully reverbed 'Womb', is by far the best thing I have heard from this band, and one of the best things I have heard in a long while. 'Womb' sets such a beautiful scene, Grey's voice haunting like he's singing in an enormous cathedral, and when that oh-so-subtle guitar comes in to open 'Selfsame' you know it's going to be gold. The lead melody of this song, whether it's backed by nothing but an acoustic guitar and ambience like its first rendition, or backed by a massive wall of keyboard choirs and guitars like its second and third, is one of the most spinechilling things I have ever heard. It's simultaneously depressing and uplifting, going from solemn to anthemic in the space of a minute.

And then we get the bridge. Sigh. Why is it that the first time (and pretty much only time) Arcane decide to dissolve into some Haken-tier key-mashing and shredding on this album is during the best and most emotional song? Yeah sure, those blast beats are pretty cool and are good for a laugh, but I was crying 35 seconds ago, I don't want a bloody shredfest, I want feelings. But at least it isn't too long before the song gets back to absolutely glorious (Jim's 'give me a voice to be heard' line is an absolutely flawless reintroduction).

To me, this album represents what I think 'standard progressive metal' will sound like for the next few years. Leprous represent the slightly avant-garde and out-there side, Ne Obliviscaris represent the extreme metal side (although their new album isn't exactly consolidating their position), and I feel Arcane, with this album have made an album that is quite simply 'transparent progressive metal'. This album has enough links to classic bands like Dream Theater and Fates Warning in the structuring and riffs to keep purists impressed, but replaces the overwhelming cheese and corniness of those bands with sincere and quite beautiful melody and emotion. If they can keep this up I honestly believe these guys can overtake current poster-boys Haken, whose dorkiness and over-soloing will no doubt fall short to the spinechilling emotion that Arcane pack behind this album.

The overall sound of this album, with a few brief exceptions that I've touched on, corrects everything that critics have against progressive metal over the years. The guitar tones are sensible and well-produced, the vocalist isn't a ball-breaking power metal dude, the compositions focus on emotion and sincerity over technicality and show, and the band knows that it doesn't have to be metal all the time (because despite all I've said about this, only about 50% of this disk is actually 'metal'). I can see Known becoming a modern classic simply because of its style. Compositionally it's impressive but not absolutely brilliant, but in combination with the wonderfully fresh-yet-familiar sound that Arcane have built, makes it into something bigger.

Side B: Learned

As I said earlier, if you treat Known as the 'album', Learned is like an extra-good bonus disk, with Arcane stripping away the metal (but not all of the prog) to make an album of relatively soft songs in the vein of a band like Anathema. But don't get me wrong - I don't mean bonus as in 'a bunch of average cuts from the recording session', I mean bonus as in 'Known is easily enough to be a full album and catapult these guys right into the middle of upcoming prog royalty and this is just a ridiculous victory lap'. If this was released as a side project or from a completely separate band then it would probably also be enough to catapult them into prog royalty, just in a different way.

Although it does definitely feel like an annex, the thing that impresses me the most about this disk is that these songs aren't just soft acoustic tracks, they have flow and structure and even some heavy parts like any prog album, there's just a bit more focus on softer instrumentals. The opening two tracks both could be big heavy Arcane tracks with a few more instruments, but they instead strip it down to let Jim Grey's voice shine through. I love the way these songs build, too, because they're not afraid to ramp up the intensity near the ends, despite this being 'the soft album'. The softer sound also gives the instrumentalists a lot more room to be subtle and mood- building. Throughout the first few minutes 'Hunter, Heart & Home', the piano, drums and bass can all be heard adding their own little touches to the relatively consistent acoustic guitar part. I especially love the little piano melodies that are added into these tracks, in a very post-rock esque way, putting just enough into it to add complexity, but not to overwhelm the main parts.

And that's not the only thing that is very post-rock influenced on this album - many of these songs reach distinct crescendos, featuring longer parts repeating the same chord progressions, adding little parts in as they keep going forward. There are no screeching tremolo-picked crescendocore peaks on this album, but the way the instruments, particularly the drums rise and fall with everything without ever getting heavy is masterful, reminding me the most of New Zealand band Mice on Stilts' longer songs, although comparisons to the softer parts of groups like Anathema are also warranted.

But the real star of this disk is Jim Grey himself, and I honestly feel like the idea behind this album could have been spawned by the band wanting to write material specifically for his nearly angelic soft vocals. 'Little Burden' is one in particular that sounds very much written for him, with his reverbed falsetto of the first few minutes being utterly enchanting. The way they're produced is wonderful too, with tons of reverb and atmosphere reminds me so much of the best countertenors back when I was in the choir. The longest song here, 'Nightingale's Weave' is easily the strongest track, almost entirely because of Jim's voice and the melodies he pulls (that recurring one is absolutely beautiful), but the amazing build from the band is also stellar, even if the song is a touch long.

Honestly, in a similar manner to Known (but for different reasons), the only thing that pulls this down is its length. The only track that truly justifies its length is the opening track, even 'Little Burden' could be cut down - the song's crescendo comes after a bit too long I feel, and when it comes it feels a bit short compared to the build. The midsection of the album, before 'Nightingale's Weave', does lose a bit of momentum in my opinion, with 'Impatience and Slow Poison' outstaying its welcome a bit much, for a song that is based on an already-used motif from the first disk, and 'Known' being an uber-soft track amongst already soft tracks just sort of floats by. That technique worked on the first disk with 'Womb' because all the other songs were heavy. Here, it just becomes an unnecessary interlude in an album filled with interludes. Doesn't stop it from being a really nice acoustic track though.

In the end I guess it's the soft nature of this album that makes it a bit homogenous - all these songs are great, they just need one of the more intense tracks to break it up. Either way, Learned is still a strong disk of subtle beauty, and while next to the first disk it does get dwarfed, for what it is, it's very good.

Conclusion

I think I went a bit overboard in the praise from my closing paragraphs on Known, because I've said pretty much everything I need to say here already. Known alone is a fantastic example of the future of progressive metal, and with the added depth that Learned brings, I think I might have a case of 'oh [&*!#] I found my album of the year in January'. But together, the biggest praise I can give this album is that it is pretty much the perfect double album. Last year saw another Australian double album, Chapter & Verse, finding both of its disks in my top 10 for album of the year, but that album had serious problems of diversity within its 90- minute runtime, whereas this is exactly what a double album should be, two albums that compliment each other perfectly, can stand on their own, sound completely distinct and yet aren't all homogenous. Known isn't all metal all the time and Learned isn't all soft acoustic stuff all the time, which is what makes them work so beautifully. That, in combination with the fact that these guys can also write pretty great songs as well makes this not only the best modern progressive double album I have heard, but possibly the greatest double album I have heard, ever.

I feel I'm being way too positive. I'm just in a good mood today. Known/Learned may not be a flawless album, but what really is? There's room for improvement on the next album for sure, but for what this is, this is pretty stunning. Progressive music, we have a new leader.

Known - 8.9 Learned - 8.3

Originally written for my Facebook page/blog: www.facebook.com/neoprogisbestprog

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 Chronicles of the Waking Dream by ARCANE album cover Studio Album, 2009
4.24 | 97 ratings

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Chronicles of the Waking Dream
Arcane Heavy Prog

Review by Progrussia

3 stars Arcane was recommended by some reviewers who shared my enthusiasm for several obscure prog metal bands from all over the world. Yes, I still consider this metal despite the softer parts. When they are not soft or melancholic, they are definitely metal. Yet, despite enthusiasm from my peers, I think this is good, but not more. I am reminded of Haken with their mix of cinematic metal and more introspective alternative rock with its piano-ish synths and build-ups. Maybe less pompous and more introspective, but ultimately less adventorous. There are some parts that I like, such as the "Celtic prog" break in Mailce and emotional build-up of Fading. But ultimately by the end it gets too tedious for my ears.

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 Chronicles of the Waking Dream by ARCANE album cover Studio Album, 2009
4.24 | 97 ratings

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Chronicles of the Waking Dream
Arcane Heavy Prog

Review by bonestorm

5 stars Part of the burgeoning prog scene in Australia, Arcane stamped themselves as one of the country's premier acts with 2009's "Chronicles of the Waking Dream".

This is a concept album with a narrative that is more implied than outwardly stated. As such there's a wonderful element of mystery to what's taking place. The ideas are carried by the music in the form of moods and emotions as much as by the lyrics and the snippets of spoken word that appear throughout the album.

Production is also amazingly good. Right from the opening track where ominous drums pound across the frantic narration of the album's protagonist, it's evident that a lot of care has gone into crafting this soundscape. For the next hour there is barely a moment of silence as one track blends seamlessly into the next. This is definitely one of those albums best devoured in one sitting.

There's some fine musicianship involved from all members of the band, with stellar vocals from Jim Grey and the guitar of Michael Gagen a standout for me. Gagen's tone on this album is absolutely killer, and he handles the differing styles of pensive melodies, metal riffing and shredding solos with great aptitude.

Aside from the atmospherics and some great melodies, there's plenty of time signature shifts throughout the album to keep things interesting. The impressive thing is that these don't feel forced at all. In most cases there's a very natural flow, all the while maintaining that feeling that you never know which direction the song is going to take next.

Arcane are now working on the follow up to "Waking Dream" with an ambitious double album. Now normally double albums make me nervous. Bands who attempt them often have the best intentions, but inadequate inspiration to pull off such an undertaking. Let's face it, it's hard enough to make one quality album, let alone two at once. But with Arcane, I have no doubts that they'll do it, so much so that I happily chipped in for their kickstarter a couple of months ago. It's very much a case of "watch this space" and I'm sure great things are in store.

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 Chronicles of the Waking Dream by ARCANE album cover Studio Album, 2009
4.24 | 97 ratings

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Chronicles of the Waking Dream
Arcane Heavy Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

3 stars On this second album Arcane offer up a musical style derived from prog metal; start with something reminiscent of Dream Theater or Pain of Salvation, put a major emphasis on the keyboards (courtesy of Matthew Martin), and dial back the prominence of the guitars (played here by Michael Gagen) and you might arrive in the same general territory as Arcane explore here. Those who like their prog metal a little harder-edged may find it somewhat soft and melodic for their tastes, but on the whole it's a competent release which should please fans of the lighter end of prog metal or the heavier end of prog rock.

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 Chronicles of the Waking Dream by ARCANE album cover Studio Album, 2009
4.24 | 97 ratings

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Chronicles of the Waking Dream
Arcane Heavy Prog

Review by ScorchedFirth

5 stars (9/10)

Arcane's sound greatly expanded, and greatly matured on their 2009 follow up to 2007's "Ashes". Entitled "Chronicles Of The Waking Dream", it is a concept album following the mysterious stories of different people witnessing a strange appearance, spread over an hour of excellently crafted music. The style of the album is quite broad, and whilst some may think of them as a prog metal band, in truth Arcane are just as comfortable in their dark atmospheric moments, or their eclectic and odd moments as when they turn up the heaviness and technicality to sonically bombard the listener. Hence I think the 'heavy prog' tag they have received here is a more accurate reflection of the breadth of sound the band is able to encompass.

Jim Grey's vocals are one of the real keys to the success of Arcane. Clean and melodic, they can be delicate and pure or intense and powerful. You can detect a bit of Maynard James Keenan at times, but often Grey will prefer a more delicate or a warmer sound. Another obvious key factor would be the keyboards, which are handled with great skill by Matthew Martin, often exploding with virtuoso bombast as well as using a good range of sounds to hold the album together and give it an epic backing. Organ, piano, string backing, all are utilised brilliantly (and in multiple styles), adding a colourful variety to the sound of the album. The rest of the band play their part though, the bass and drums definitely hold their own, they just don't take centre stage as often. Guitarist Michael Gagen can also really shred when he wants to, though he doesn't overdo it.

The album opens with "Glimpse", providing us with some brief narration and then the epic opening, the main theme of which is heard again in the next song. "The Seer" is heavy and compact. It sets up the high level of rhythmic interest that Arcane maintain in other songs. It contains some excellent singing (the chorus is especially catchy), building well in intensity. The more up-tempo parts have a sort of frantic energy to them which I really enjoy. You can see the music video for this song on the band's YouTube page, by the way.

This is followed by "The Malice", with some very complex riffs, that I can find difficult to even keep track of at some points. The sheer number of changes between the strange rhythms, different tempos, and different moods across the broad dynamic range that this song goes through in only 7 minutes (whilst still feeling natural) is just a joy. After this sonic assault, comes the short bridge song "The First Silent Year", which offers a calming more ambient relief that gives the listener a chance to catch their breath before the next song, whilst reprising the theme from "Glimpse" in a softer setting.

"Secret" then opens with some lullaby like tones before we are off again on another musical rollercoaster. Whilst this song contains heavy and technical parts they are interwoven with some more melodic parts throughout, before the two styles combine brilliantly at the end of the song. The instrumental section in the middle of this song is such fun, the keyboards and guitar are spot on in every aspect. Half way through, a creepy sounding child starts singing, which eventually gets turned into the symphonic metallic theme to close the song. Sounds weird, but trust me it works.

"Fading" shows off another side of the band, with soft vocals in the beginning. It takes advantage of the longer length to build more gradually, going heavy on the symphonic keys. I find it moving and actually quite beautiful, whilst still complex and interesting. "The Second Silent Year" is another interlude song, a short and tense solo piano piece, really enjoyable. The piano continues into "May 26", with an odd, even slightly jazzy approach, coupled with melodic vocals and the bass rumbling around in that fun way it often does in this album. For "The Third Silent Year", we get some ethereal female vocals, tribal drums, possibly a slightly eastern feel to it. I have to say, I do like the way these shorter songs affect the balance of the album, they are definitely a good addition, and allow the band to cover some interesting musical ground as well.

Of course, with a few calmer songs now played and the album coming to a close, Arcane decide it's really time to make their weight felt again, and things are given an epic climax in "Asylum: Acolyte Zero". Guitars are heavy and drums are crashing, and this song makes use of every second of it's over 13 minute run time. I especially like some of the more weird eclectic moments they manage to fit in. Everything that I've praised about all of the album is showcased in this song, which provides a fittingly spectacular finale to the album, reprising earlier themes and ideas brilliantly, and the symphonic climax is simply fantastic. We are then left with another short track, "Whisper", which functions as an epilogue to the album. It features only multi-layered vocals, and rounds of the album wonderfully.

But despite all the great songs, most of all what impresses me is how intelligently everything is put together, how well the music flows from track to track as well as within the songs. With all the things Arcane wanted to cram into "Chronicles" it could have gone badly wrong, but they were intelligent enough to structure many distinct ideas into a coherent and very complete-feeling and naturally-flowing concept album. They've certainly set themselves a quite unenviable task in having to follow this album; I for one await their recently announced next album with a great deal of anticipation.

Something that I saw was already mentioned is the similarity to fellow heavy proggers Haken. Given the tremendous amount of attention Haken got for their releases, I'm really surprised that this album seems to have been pretty much passed over, because in my opinion it is superior in essentially every respect. The vocals in particular are much stronger, as well as the overall cohesion and consistency of the album, plus "Chronicles" even came out first! Certainly this album should be of interest to a large proportion of the progressive community.

To sum up, Arcane's "Chronicles Of The Waking Dream" is another release from the growing prog scene in Australia that proves it may be worth keeping an eye on progging down under for the future. With an enigmatic and likeable vocal performance backed up by a confident and assured band, Arcane deliver on the promise of their debut with a fresh, modern sounding album from the (progmetal-leaning) heavy prog scene, filled with variety and sophistication from start to finish. Most of all, "Chronicles Of The Waking Dream" is just plain fun, with moments ranging from the big and epic, to the subtle and attractive all seamlessly tied together in a skilfully unified manner.

You can even stream the whole album for free on the band's reverbnation and bandcamp pages (they are down as 'arcaneaustralia' on both), so it couldn't be easier to give Arcane a try. Happy listening, everybody!

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 Ashes by ARCANE album cover Studio Album, 2007
3.20 | 13 ratings

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Ashes
Arcane Heavy Prog

Review by ScorchedFirth

3 stars (6/10)

Arcane is a band that I came across by using the list/filters function here on ProgArchives to find the 'top' albums from Australia (my glorious birthplace). It's a game I can strongly recommend playing if you're after a diverse range of excellent prog. Anyway, far ahead of all the other releases was a strange looking album, with a strange sounding title, "Chronicles Of The Waking Dream", by a band called Arcane. After many listens, I came to the conclusion that it was absolutely fantastic, so it seemed logical to explore Arcane's previous release, their 2007 debut "Ashes".

Arcane play a strongly metal-edged form of prog, with melodic clean vocals, but with enough sonic variety to get them labelled as heavy prog. You can hear influences ranging from Dream Theater to fellow Australians Karnivool, along with many others. The level of musicianship is good, as you might then expect.

"Ashes" was originally conceived of as just the 24 minute title track, but then expanded into a full album later. To be honest, it is something of a modest start, from a young band clearly bursting with talent, but sometimes being held back by the recording/sound quality. Their skill nonetheless shines through on enough occasions to make this a good album. Occasionally the sound of the keyboard is a bit off, and the guitar also can be a little flat. Jim Grey's singing, however is just full of personality. It is constantly enjoyable, though perhaps a little raw in places, but in a predominantly metallic environment that can work fine. In a few of the instrumental breaks however, it can occasionally sound like an 80s thrash band kidnapped a keyboardist.

Having said all that, what cannot be argued against is the compositions themselves, which are of a generally good standard (I certainly wouldn't consider any of these songs bad). I especially like the epic title track of "Ashes", which really forms the centrepiece of the album. The vocal performance in particular stands out to me, and there are passages where you can really see the band they would soon become.

I would say that it might be interesting to see the band re-record these songs but to be honest I think they can write much stronger material nowadays, and they should focus on getting that out there whenever possible. "Ashes", whilst still intelligent, is an altogether more straightforward release than the epic "Chronicles", which is where Arcane really broke new ground and carved out their own identity. Still, the ambition is there, and the sense of fun is there, certainly enough to interest new fans of the band. Just don't make this your first Arcane album.

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 Chronicles of the Waking Dream by ARCANE album cover Studio Album, 2009
4.24 | 97 ratings

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Chronicles of the Waking Dream
Arcane Heavy Prog

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

4 stars Arcane are an Australian prog metal band that will appeal to those who love Riverside or other bands who merge heavy riffs with clear singing and intricate compositions. They have an endearing sound that is creative and moves in unexpected directions with odd time shifts and innovative musicianship. Tracks such as the mini epic 'Asylum: Acolyte Zero' have stunning complex structures, with killer riffs, complex times sigs and inject blends of grinding guitars with delightful melodic keyboards. The lengthy instrumental break features Michael Gagen's polished guitar work along with Matt Martin's keyboard wizardry. Jim Grey does a fine job on vocals, and the rhythm machine of Brendon Blanchard's bass and Blake Coulson's drums are wonderful. The double kick drumming is machine like and the song tends to build into heavier sections with faster singing pentameter at 9 minutes. It breaks into a soft vox and gentle piano, then builds into a symphonic soundscape, and some atmospheric choral voices. This is one of the highlights and really impressed me. Another awesome song is 'Fading' beginning with soft vocals and light guitar touches. The piano is lovely and it builds gradually with lead guitar flourishes and some symphonic keys. When the music fades out there is an a capella section for a moment and then grinding metal riffs break through.

The songs blend into each other to create a seamless musical experience with a conceptual framework that has mystical overtones. It involves a protagonist who is losing his grip on reality, perhaps even becoming deranged, and he becomes obsessed with the date of May 26th to the point where it haunts him and has some enigmatic meaning, though we van never be certain of what it all means. At times it is an unsettling excursion into a mentally unbalanced mind, but musically it is always a sheer delight.

The opening songs feature uplifting piano mixed with darker metal riffs, and the idiosyncratic vocals of Grey. The intro is a disjointed voice explaining the importance of May 26, then the music floats over, very melancholy and soft. It builds to heavier tones and segues into the next track.

The instrumental break in 'The Seer' is reminiscent of Dream Theater, with guitar and keyboard trade offs. Overall this track showcases the style of the band that moves from beauty to darker textures. 'The Malice' has a dreamy feel, and the piano instrumental to follow is beautiful. The climax is with the epic 'Asylum: Acolyte Zero'and then it settles into the closing track, a gentle piece called 'Whisper'.

The style of the album is like Pain of Salvation or Riverside, with beautiful moments juxtaposed by outbreaks of heavy guitars. It is an excellent album and yet another example of Australian prog metal at its finest.

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 Chronicles of the Waking Dream by ARCANE album cover Studio Album, 2009
4.24 | 97 ratings

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Chronicles of the Waking Dream
Arcane Heavy Prog

Review by UMUR
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars "Chronicles Of The Waking Dream" is the 2nd full-length studio album by Australian progressive metal act Arcane. The album was released through Arcane Australia in September 2009.

The band released a promising debut album in 2007 titled "Ashes", and the dark and melancholic progressive metal style featured on that album is continued and further developed on "Chronicles Of The Waking Dream". While the debut album featured a 24:15 minutes long title track, which was divided into five parts, "Chronicles Of The Waking Dream" takes that concept a little further as all tracks on the album seque into each other to form a regular concept album. Arcane play a layered and keyboard heavy type of progressive metal with both really heavy moments but also mellower emotional sections too. While the instrumental part of the music is impressive enough, it´s the vocals by Jim Grey that really set Arcane apart from most other progressive metal acts. He has a very distinct sounding voice and a convincing emotional delivery.

The tracks are structurally challenging, dynamic and it´s hard to pinpoint just one influence. I think I hear influences from both "classic" progressive metal in the vein of Dream Theater, but also influences from the more alternative part of the progressive metal scene. Acts like Riverside and A Perfect Circle probably aren´t strangers to these guys either.

"Chronicles Of The Waking Dream" is not an easy listen and it´s taken me quite a few listens to grasp the full 59:15 minutes long album. There´s simply a lot to take in, but in a positive way. So if you enjoy your progressive metal challenging (not necessarily focused on constant technical playing though) and delivered with great emotional impact "Chronicles Of The Waking Dream" is definitely a recommended listen. A 4 - 4.5 star (85%) rating is deserved.

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 Chronicles of the Waking Dream by ARCANE album cover Studio Album, 2009
4.24 | 97 ratings

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Chronicles of the Waking Dream
Arcane Heavy Prog

Review by Rune2000
Special Collaborator Prog Metal Team

5 stars Has it really been almost a year since my 700th review? I've clearly been taking my time completing the last hundred scribblings of mine and now it's time for the that 800th review!

Just like with the previous 7 anniversary reviews, this one is going to feature another album that's close to my heart. Unlike the previous ones, this Chronicles Of The Waking Dream is actually a very recent addition to my collection. An addition that I owe entirely to my friend and fellow collaborator Karl (aka Bonnek) who just so happened throw this recommendation my way on a cloudy September afternoon. Yes folks, it has only been less than three month since I've heard this album for the first time and I can clearly state that this is a definite keeper in my collection.

Talking about an album coming literally out of nowhere and completely blowing me out of water! There are quite a few great albums that I start off as a mere fling and either grow up to become milestones of my collection or just sit there attracting dust. Chronicles Of A Waking Dream doesn't fit into those tow categories. This is one of those rare albums in my collection that I knew would be a huge favorite of mine while listening to it for the first time!

I adore these experiences when it's clear that a band can do no wrong with their material and there are quite a few of these types of instances scattered all over this breathtaking album experience. I just fell in a complete trance from the first Glimpse and was completely mesmerized by the entire duration of my first spin of the record. The album does indeed deliver the goods in both songwriting and performance without overshadowing either one of the two. The first thing that I initially reacted to was the gorgeous vocal performance by Jim Grey. His style isn't necessary original and sometimes even borders on the work of other Post Metal vocalists, but the consistency of his fine work really makes this record shine!

The great tracks keep on piling on top of one another and it does makes me wonder how long Arcane will manage to keep up this level of quality in their output or whether they will stumble upon their next release. Either way, there's really no denying that the band have scored themselves their first artistic triumph with the release of Chronicles Of A Waking Dream!

***** star songs: Glimpse (3:36) The Malice (7:21) Secret (7:18) Asylum: Acolyte Zero (13:04) Whisper (1:45)

**** star songs: The Seer (5:30) The First Silent Year (1:19) Fading (11:58) The Second Silent Year (1:48) May 26 (3:17) The Third Silent Year (2:29)

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